Special Alert! It’s Make or Break Time—Act Now to Make GMO Labeling a Reality Across the US

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May 11, 2015 | 226,841 views

Story at-a-glance

  • On April 27, 2015, a judge ruled against the food industry, spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, upholding Vermont’s GMO labeling law. The law will go into effect on July 1, 2016
  • The GMA, Monsanto, and other chemical technology companies now have only one option remaining: to pass the Pompeo bill (HR 1599) in 2015, which would strip states of the right to pass GMO food labeling bills
  • If we defeat the Pompeo bill, we will have GMO labeling in the US. It is imperative to contact your representatives and tell them to vote NO on HR 1599

By Dr. Mercola

Currently, Americans are standing at a crossroads: one way leads to certain labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods across the country; the other will lead toward the elimination of that possibility.

If you've never taken action on this issue before, I urge you to do so now. We need every single American who cares about this issue to make their opinion known very clearly to their federal representatives.

According to recent polls done by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), over 90 percent of the public definitely wants to know what's in their food.

Demands for labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were recently stimulated even further when the prestigious International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization declared glyphosate a "probable carcinogen."1,2

Research3 has also revealed that inert ingredients like ethoxylated adjuvants in glyphosate-based herbicides are "active principles of human cell toxicity." They also suspect that4 Roundup might interfere with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights, or miscarriages.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, is sprayed heavily on 84 percent of all GMO crops, including soy, corn, canola, and sugar beets—all the key ingredients in processed foods.

After reviewing 44 scientific studies, half of the IARC panel thought that glyphosate should be classified as a Group 1 "known carcinogen," with the other half opting for a Group 2 "probable carcinogen" rating.

Environmental groups recently sent a letter5 to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the agency to reexamine the safety of glyphosate in light of the IARC's determination.

As noted by Ronnie Cummins of the OCA,6 "Given the fact that new peer-reviewed studies damning glyphosate are being published nearly every week, the IARC may very well reclassify glyphosate as a 'known carcinogen' in the near future."

But merely hoping and wishing for labeling that will help you avoid GMOs won't make it happen. Action is absolutely required at this time, and here's why.

Major Victory for Vermont—Federal Judge Upholds GMO Labeling Law

On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill (H.112) by an overwhelming margin—28-2. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on April 23.

The bill was immediately attacked by industry. Spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), they sued Vermont to block the implementation of the law.

On April 27, 2015, Judge Christina Reiss ruled in Vermont's favor.7 The law stands, and will go into effect on July 1, 2016. As reported by Vermont Right to Know GMOs:8

"The judge also dismissed a number of the plaintiffs' claims including assertions that the law violates the commerce clause and was expressly preempted by federal law.

Possibly, the most important aspect of the ruling is that the law's requirement that GMOs be labeled is constitutional under the First Amendment...

'The GMO food giants aren't used to losing, but they were just knocked on their collective keister by the state of Vermont,' said VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns. 'Consumers across the country will no doubt take notice.'"

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has asked the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to overturn the April 27 ruling. GMA president Pamela Bailey issued a statement saying:  

“The court’s opinion in denying our request to block the Vermont law opens the door to states creating mandatory labeling requirements based on pseudo-science and web-fed hysteria. If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will disrupt food supply chains, confuse consumers, and lead to higher food costs.”

Bailey also stressed that the federal court’s ruling—which determined that existing US law does not preempt state’s GMO labeling laws—“shows why Congress should pass the voluntary uniform GMO labeling bill quickly and federally preempt state mandatory GMO laws.”

It’s a big risk for them to appeal, because if they lose – and from the judge’s comments it’s going to be very hard to overturn – it’s going to be a tough blow to their federal ambitions of passing the Pompeo bill. That would then leave them with a final option, a Supreme Court ruling.  

While there are questions about the impact former Monsanto man Clarence Thomas may have on the case, a Supreme Court ruling in GMA’s favor would invalidate 150 state laws that have existed for decades.  From wild rice, maple syrup, and Alaskan seafood – these are all enforced labeling standards that were created by the states.

This would be extremely difficult for them to justify. Their only chance is through the interstate commerce clause, but it would be one of the most bizarre things to take place in the food industry.

That said, by the time they get to Supreme Court, Vermont’s law will already be in place---it will likely be in place before the appeal will even take place. July 1, 2016 is the date as of which GMOs must be labeled in Vermont. So while Monsanto and the GMA will most certainly push this all the way to the Supreme Court, in the meantime they still have to start labeling their foods. This is an enormous victory, and the Vermont team deserves much appreciation from all of us.

Defeat the Pompeo Bill, and GMO Labeling Can Become Reality!

As it currently stands, the GMA, Monsanto and other chemical technology companies now have only one solid option remaining: to pass the federal Pompeo bill (HR 1599) in 2015, which would trump state law and strip states of the right to pass GMO food labeling bills.

The bill also allows unscrupulous food and beverage companies to continue mislabeling GMO-tainted foods as "natural" or "all natural." The Pompeo bill, ironically named "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act," is proposing nothing if not inaccurate labeling of foods, by preventing you from ever learning which foods may contain GMOs. Critics of the bill have dubbed it the DARK Act, aka "Deny Americans the Right-to-Know" Act, which is exactly what the bill does.

Stopping the passing of the Pompeo bill is THE most important action anyone concerned about GMOs can possibly take right now, and the outcome will quite possibly determine the future of agriculture. It's the choice of a regenerative or degenerative food system; a choice of monoculture or diversity, of obesity or wellness, pollution, or nutrition.

The DARK Act (HR 1599) was introduced by Koch-sponsored Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS4). And while republicans are supposedly "standing together" to defend state rights, many republicans are joining with Pompeo to remove the rights of states, and to remove citizens' right to know about genetically engineered foods.

It's an indefensible republican position, and they need to hear about this hypocrisy. As noted by Colin O'Neil, director of Government Affairs for Center for Food Safety last year:9 "GMA's selection of Congressman Pompeo as their champion shows how extreme the proposal really is."

We need everyone to put pressure on your federal representatives, and demand they vote NO on the Pompeo bill. We need to do everything we possibly can to prevent this bill from passing.  A list of all the sponsors of Pompeo’s bill can be found on the congressional website.10 Democrats shouldn’t be fighting against consumers based on their supposed purpose as democrats, yet many are cosponsoring the bill. And Republicans are supposed to stand up for state’s rights, yet they’ve put their names to this bill as well. In short, they’re all hypocrites fighting what a federal judge has already ruled as constitutional.

Don't Fall for Front Groups' Hollow Fear Tactics

According to the industry front group Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, GMOs reduce water and pesticide use. Anyone who believes this standing PR talking point these days is unaware of the statistics, which clearly show that neither of these claims are true.

As noted in a 2012 article by Tom Philpott,14 Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology "has called forth a veritable monsoon of herbicides, both in terms of higher application rates for Roundup, and... growing use of other, more toxic herbicides." Philpott's article includes eye-opening statistics compiled by Chuck Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Benbrook discovered that:

  • Overall, GE technology drove up herbicide use by 527 million pounds (about 11 percent) between 1996 (when Roundup Ready crops were initially released) and 2011
  • Herbicide use dropped by about two percent between 1996 and 1999, but shortly thereafter, as weeds began developing resistance against the chemical, application rates skyrocketed
  • Rapidly increasing weed resistance is driving up the volume of herbicide needed by about 25 percent annually. The recent approvals of 2,4-D and dicamba resistant GE crops may drive it up by another 50 percent, according to research published in Environmental Sciences Europe15
  • In 2002, glyphosate use on Roundup Ready soybeans rose by 21 percent. Overall, American farmers increased their use of glyphosate by 19 million pounds that year
  • By 2011, farmers growing Roundup Ready crops (corn, soy, and cotton) used 24 percent more Roundup than farmers planting non-GE versions of the same crop, because by that time, glyphosate-resistance had become the norm. Farmers also began resorting to older, more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D

Toxins in Food Supply Are Now a Major Contributor to Chronic Disease

As noted by Dr. Joseph E. Pizzorno,16 founding president of naturopathic Bastyr University and former advisor to President Clinton on complementary and alternative medicines, "toxins in the modern food supply are now a major contributor to, and in some cases the cause of, virtually all chronic diseases." David Bellinger, a professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, estimates Americans have lost a total of 16.9 million IQ points due to exposure to organophosphate pesticides.17

The World Health Organization (WHO) has now acknowledged that glyphosate is a human carcinogen, and compelling research shows that bees and butterflies—critical food crop pollinators—are disappearing at alarming rates because of the toxic pesticides associated with these GMO monocultures. Glyphosate has also been found to be highly toxic to the soil surrounding a plant's roots (the rhizosphere), woodland plants, amphibians, fish, aquatic environments, and mammals18--causing reproductive problems and disrupting the endocrine system.

Even IF genetically engineered crops could produce more food to feed a growing population (and research shows organic agriculture is actually more efficient at creating higher yields with less input), what good will it do to produce more food if it's all toxic—to microbes, insects, animals, and humans alike? Ask yourself, who benefits from the idea that we "need" genetic engineering to survive? This notion is a manufactured one that has no solid basis in reality.

When you consider that Americans eat an average of 193 pounds of genetically engineered foods each year,19 the issues of compositional equivalency and glyphosate contamination are undoubtedly both important.

Avoiding Toxic Food Is Imperative for Optimal Health

The chemical technology industry, spearheaded by Monsanto, has managed to turn food into a literal poison. Glyphosate, which we know systemically contaminates the plant as it is integrated into every call of the plant and cannot be washed off, has a number of devastating biological effects, including the following:

Nutritional deficiencies, as glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop Disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids (these are essential amino acids not produced in your body that must be supplied via your diet)
Increased toxin exposure (this includes high levels of glyphosate and formaldehyde in the food itself) Impairment of sulfate transport and sulfur metabolism; sulfate deficiency
Systemic toxicity—a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; beneficial microbes in particular, allowing for overgrowth of pathogens Gut dysbiosis (imbalances in gut bacteria, inflammation, leaky gut, food allergies such as gluten intolerance)
Enhancement of damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and environmental toxins as a result of glyphosate shutting down the function of detoxifying enzymes Creation of ammonia (a byproduct created when certain microbes break down glyphosate), which can lead to brain inflammation associated with autism and Alzheimer's disease

Ideally, you'd be best off opting for products bearing the USDA 100% organic label when buying processed foods in order to avoid exposure to agricultural chemicals, which certainly are not limited to Roundup. Don't make the mistake of confusing the "natural" label with organic standards however.

The "natural" label is not based on any standards and is frequently misused by sellers of GE products. You'd also be wise to stop using Roundup around your home, where children and pets can come into contact with it simply by walking across the area.

More Chemical Technology 'Bio-Ag' Lies

Contrary to industry propaganda, GMOs are only making a bad situation worse. Chemical agriculture in and of itself is a hazard to human and environmental health, and must be addressed if we want to get a handle on runaway disease statistics. GE crops are chemical agriculture on steroids. Here are a few more inconvenient facts the industry is trying to sweep under the carpet:

  1. Synthetic fertilizers are polluting our waters, including drinking water, thereby posing a direct threat to human health.
  2. Aquifers are being drained to water corn, half of which is used for ethanol—a fact that makes the argument about "feeding the world" rather bizarre.
  3. Glyphosate is not only carcinogenic, it's also promoting antibiotic resistance, as evidenced in a groundbreaking study.20,21 Roundup was shown to increase the antibiotic-resistant prowess of E. coli and Salmonella—two bacteria responsible for a large portion of foodborne illness.
  4. Dicamba and 2,4-D were also found to promote antibiotic resistance, which is particularly relevant in light of the recent approval of a new generation of GE crops resistant not only to glyphosate, but also to one or both of these pesticides.

    This research implies that combating the weed and pest resistance caused by Roundup Ready GE crops by introducing dicamba- and 2,4-D-resistant varieties is probably only going to speed up the process of creating multi-drug resistant pathogens that are already killing 23,000 Americans each year. Experts are now warning that we may soon be at a point where ALL antibiotics fail, and once that happens, it will be the end of modern medicine as we know it.

    It's quite crucial to understand that glyphosate contamination in GE crops is systemic, meaning it is present in every cell of the plant, from root to tip. It's not just an issue of topical contamination—although that certainly adds to the level of contamination.

    Normally, you need to thoroughly wash your produce to remove topical residues, but you cannot remove glyphosate from GE produce, as it has been absorbed into the cells of the plant. And neither can food and animal feed manufacturers who use GE ingredients in their products.

  5. Millions of acres of GMO corn and soy are used to make to human poisons—high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fats)—another fact that makes the argument about "feeding a growing population" completely ludicrous. The vast majority of GE crops grown in the US (corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets) are used to make cheap ingredients for processed foods that are grossly inferior in terms of nutrition to whole organic foods.
  6. While the industry puts on this façade of supplying the world with critically needed foods, what they're really doing is producing foods that have been scientifically proven to promote obesity, metabolic dysfunction, and associated chronic diseases—all while making a killing on royalties from patented seeds and pesticide sales.

  7. The majority of the GE corn and soy grown is used to support confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which is the primary source of antibiotic resistance that kills tens of thousands of Americans annually.

Other Countries Stand to Lose Big Due to 'Monsanto Provision' in US Fast Track Legislation

As explained by Ben Lilliston in a recent interview, Fast Track (also known as trade promotion authority, or TPA) gives the President the right to negotiate and finalize a trade agreement, which Congress then votes on in its entirety. And, once the agreements are completed, you can no longer make any amendments.

Under the US constitution, Congress has the right to engage in trade agreements prior to this, and to set negotiating parameters. Under Fast Track, Congress forfeits this right, allowing the President to negotiate at will instead. According to a recent press release:22

"Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today spoke out against a provision buried in trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation that could help a government or multinational corporation attack state or national laws that require the labeling of genetically engineered foods.... The Obama administration is asking Congress for fast track authority in order to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade agreement with the European Union.

'Call it the smoking gun,' said DeFazio. 'Proof that fast track and massive free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are written by and for multinational corporations such as agriculture giant Monsanto. Instead of using trade deals as an opportunity to protect and strengthen consumer rights by joining the countries which require genetically engineered food to be labeled, this administration wants to benefit wealthy corporations at the expense of the public.'"

The provision in question is included in the Trade Negotiating Objectives, and requires American negotiators to fight for trade agreement rules that eliminate "barriers" to markets. One such barrier is the labeling of GE foods, which 64 countries already require. Some of our largest trading partners, such as Japan, China, Brazil, and the European Union, stand to lose the most from this legislation. As noted by Colin O'Neil, director of Government Affairs at Center for Food Safety:

"At a time when Americans overwhelmingly want a right to know what they are buying and feeding their families, it is appalling that Congress would encourage stripping other countries of their right to label genetically engineered foods. Each country has justifiably required the labeling of GE foods; the only thing that cannot be justified is why consumers in the US don't have the same right to know as consumers in 64 other countries around the world."

It's Time to Take Decisive Action

I urge you to take action and get organized. Let your representatives know you will not accept a Yes vote on HR 1599 (aka the DARK act), and that they will not serve another term if they vote in favor of it. This may be the single most important action you can take this year, so please do not put this off. This is our chance to get GMOs labeled in the US—but we MUST stop the Pompeo bill to make that a reality. It's really make or break time.

Vermont's victory against the GMA has set the precedent that state GMO labeling laws are constitutional, and there's nothing Monsanto et al. can do about it. And, as mentioned earlier, food companies simply are not going to produce two different kinds of packages, some with GMO label and some without, depending on which state the product is destined to be sold in.

What will happen is, they'll label the product as GMO regardless of where it's sold, and if sales are threatened, they'll start trading out the GMO ingredients to avoid the dreaded label requirement.

The reason the industry is threatening you with higher food prices and convoluted distribution chains is because they know this, and they want to avoid having to replace the GMO ingredients. Were there price hikes when trans fats had to be labeled? Did you notice price hikes when any other ingredient had to be listed on the package? No? Then why would you expect a price hike now?

The fact of the matter is, Monsanto and its henchmen are trying to protect a huge cash cow with multiple golden teats—patented seeds, pesticides, and cheap tax-dollar subsidized ingredients with which to make processed foods—all of which hurts you while benefiting them. There's nothing safe or accurate about Pompeo's "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act," and our representatives need to be told we will not tolerate it.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 Organic Consumers Association March 20, 2015
  • 2 PBS March 29, 2015
  • 3 Toxicology 2012 Sep 21 [Epub ahead of print]
  • 4 Scientific American June 23, 2009
  • 5 Environmental Working Group March 26, 2015
  • 6 Mercola.com April 21, 2015
  • 7 Vermont Right to Know, United States District Court, Case 5:14-cv-00117-cr, April 27, 2015 (PDF)
  • 8 Vermont Right to Know GMOs April 29, 2015
  • 9 Center for Food Safety April 3, 2014
  • 10 Congress.gov H.R.1599 - Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 Cosponsors list
  • 11 Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food
  • 12 Food Chemistry June 15, 2014: 153; 207-215
  • 13 Environmental Sciences Europe doi:10.1186/s12302-014-0034-1 (PDF)
  • 14 Mother Jones October 3, 2012
  • 15 Environmental Sciences Europe 2012, 24:24
  • 16, 17 Sydney Morning Herald April 16, 2015
  • 18 Rachael Carson Council, Glyphosate/Roundup Research
  • 19 Environmental Working Group October 15, 2012
  • 20 mBio March 24, 2015: 6(2); e00009-15
  • 21 Mysinchew.com March 25, 2015
  • 22 Rep. Peter DeFazio April 29, 2015 Press Release